A Tale Of Two Healthcare Systems
On May 30, 2012, 3:19 PM by Rosie Spinks
For one woman, the right to free healthcare feels like a privilege.
I’ve always hated going to the doctor. Something about sitting in those paper-thin gowns with the cold linoleum tile under my feet and harsh fluorescent lighting above my head gives me anxiety. Then there’s the fact that I’m usually at the doctor because something feels or appears wrong with me, which is never comforting.
The worst part by far though is the dreaded transaction that awaits Americans at the end of a visit: the co-pays, the deductibles, and the breath-withholding moments before you find out how much of your prescription is covered by insurance. If I wasn’t already feeling sick before I entered the office, I almost always am after I’ve paid.
My experience with health care changed radically for me recently when, upon moving to London thanks to my dual citizenship, I first received socialized medical care.
My first visit to the doctor in the UK was routine enough—I was making use of one of London’s free sexual health clinics—but the experience was nothing short of astounding for an American like myself. I made the appointment through a simple online form, received a text reminder the day before, and filled out only a single sheet of paperwork upon arrival.
Nevertheless, I dutifully arrived with a copy of my national insurance number, ready to produce it in place of my Blue Cross insurance card that I’d never leave home without in the US. However, no one even asked me for proof that I had the right to receive healthcare. It was then that I first experienced the “novel” concept of socialized healthcare: I didn’t need to have deep pockets or bring shiny insurance cards to receive medical aid; I only needed to bring myself.
Upon discussing birth control options with the doctor, there was no mention of cost, insurance, or generic versus brand name drugs. When she asked me what STIs I wanted to be tested for, I instinctively hesitated. Every American knows that ticking all the boxes when it comes to laboratory tests “just to be safe” is the fastest way to get a lab bill for $1,200 that you can’t afford. “It’s okay,” she said understandingly. “It’s all free.”
My birth control of choice, which would have cost me no less than $50 per month in the US even with insurance, was handed to me at the end of my visit. There was no bill to pay, no pharmacy to visit, and I was simply told to come back when I needed more.
In America, it was a much different story. Unlike many females, I didn’t have to worry about my parents knowing that I used contraception, but I was not particularly keen to tell them about it either. So, I could obtain my $50-per-month birth control from my university’s health center either by paying for it myself (yeah, right) or by hoping that my father wouldn’t notice the ambiguous charges that would appear on my student account each month. Or, like many of my friends chose, I could head to a Planned Parenthood clinic, say that I didn’t have insurance and that I was financially independent from my parents (both lies), and try to convince them to give me my preferred method of expensive, brand name birth control.
With the right’s unrelenting attempts to dismantle that last option and label the “sex crazed co-eds” who seek affordable contraception in university as “sluts”, it’s unclear whether resources like Planned Parenthood will be an option for women like me in the future. The fact that the US is even having a debate over access to contraception and Planned Parenthood—when most other developed and developing nations have long settled the issue—is a good case in point for why the issue of healthcare should be one of human welfare, not politics, ideology or profit.
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